Did you know that May 22 is World Goth Day? Yes, it's true. The annual celebration of the international goth scene began in 2009 and was spearheaded by two U.K. DJs, DJ Cruel Britannia and martin oldgoth (intentionally all lowercase). It began with a day of special programming on BBC 6 Music.
“World Goth Day started off as an idea inspired by a genre-specific weekend of music on BBC 6 Music in 2009. 'Goth Day' was on May 22nd,” writes Cruel Britannia in an email. “I got it into my head that Goth Day was a good enough excuse to encourage goths to have their own Goth 'Public Holiday', so to speak, and celebrate what goth means to them in either their musical tastes, the books they read, or whatever part it plays in their darkly-inclined lifestyle.”
He's quick to point out the organic nature of the holiday's development.
“It all sounds dreadfully well thought out here, but in reality it was actually blurted out on a Myspace blog one evening where too much caffeine was consumed,” he writes. “The end result was that many goths around the UK took it upon themselves to read it and have themselves a Goth Day, much to my surprise.”
In an email, oldgoth recalls, “We convinced friends to contact their local radio stations with requests and mention that it was 'goth day', and had a reasonable amount of success. Some people got workmates involved, baked 'goth day' cakes and generally just had fun with the idea. [Cruel Britannia] was interviewed on his local radio station and it was nothing more than that, UK based and a bunch of people having fun.”
The following year, they unveiled the World Goth Day website and launched the event on a global level with merchandise and a compilation CD from oldgoth with proceeds from the sales of both going to charity. They also initiated the World Goth Day Awards, which allows fans to vote for their favorite artists (classic and modern), club nights and festivals.
Both DJs have been active in the goth scene for years.
“It turned out I was quite possibly a goth long before I knew it, and it took an ex-boss to point it out one day before I even gave it a second thought,” Cruel Britannia remarks.
From 2003 through 2007, he spun at Hex in the City, “at a rock pub in Wolverhampton.” Currently, Cruel Britannia hosts an online radio show called Fadeout, which, he says, “so far outlasted the stations it's been previously aired on.” The show now airs on Nightbreed Radio.
As for oldgoth, he's been active in the scene since the 1980s.
“These days I run a promotions company, host a radio show and help organise events at the Whitby Goth Weekend, the UK's biggest goth gathering,” he explains.
You might have seen him in Los Angeles as well. Oldgoth has DJed here “on a number of occasions.”
When we asked what Cruel Britannia called “dreaded 'What Is Goth?' question” (hey, we have to ask the basics), both were quick dispel the myriad stereotypes of antisocial behavior and violence that befell the scene in the 1990s.
“I've seen the damage that unbalanced media has done to the goth scene, I'd be horrified if someone crossed the street to avoid me in case I had a gun,” laments Cruel Britannia.
Adds oldgoth, “It's taken us a long time to get away from that, but we're getting there. World Goth Day is all about this kind of positive promotion, we encourage people to use the day to raise money for charity and to be seen in a more positive light.”
For oldgoth, the scene is “purely about the music.”
“The swirling guitars, heavy bass and almost tribal drumming,” he describes. “The scene seems to splinter in the mid nineties here in the UK, when metal, industrial and EBM all crept in, but lately things are slowly returning to their roots.”
Cruel Britannia sees goth as a “lifestyle.”
“A balanced combination of music first and image second,” he writes. “Get that right and you'll be fine.”
Goth may now be considered an old sounds, having first hit the radar of music fans back when the word was famously used to describe Joy Division in late 1970s. Over the years, a sort of pantheon of goth bands (whether or not the artists actually like the term) developed, including Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, to name a few. But there were many more bands that emerged after the 1980s and, today, it's not terribly difficult to find new bands who continue to champion those sounds (e.g., Cold Cave).
“Lately there's been a lot of bands taking that post punk influence to new levels,” writes oldgoth. “bands like Interpol and Editors in the past have done a lot for that, and recently White Lies, Blacklist and Ulterior (fresh from a Sister of Mercy support slot) have become bigger names in what is really a fairly small pond.”
“Right now I'm listening to the guitar led, minimal synth post-punk sounds made by the likes of O Children and White Lies which have a great 80's flavour,” writes Cruel Britannia. “Outside of that I enjoy quite a wide spectrum of music from quirky synthpop, to psychobilly & through to the deepest darkest moody goth offerings of bands not unlike the Sisters Of Mercy in sound.”
What we like best about World Goth Day is that, despite its global nature, the event encourages people to support their local communities. World Goth Day gatherings are being held in locations as far apart as South Africa, Singapore and Lebanon. Even if your city does have an event listed on the web site, the organizers encourage people to support their local clubs and call into local radio stations to request music.
We asked the DJs about their plans for Sunday.
“I'm so disorganised right now I wish I knew,” writes Cruel Britannia. “Ideally I want to jump on a coach and join Martin in London for the World Goth Day event being held in Camden. I'll have to see how the pennies work out first. Maybe I'll be DJing myself somewhere. Failing that, I might just curl up with a vampire flick with Nightbreed Radio on in the background or something
“Either way,” he surmises, “I won't be wasting it.”
Oldgoth will be helping with fundraisers on World Goth Day.
“I'll be starting the day watching my wife Brigitte take part in the 'Race for Life' a 5k (3 mile) walk/run in aid of cancer research, along with 17 of her friends they're doing this in full Victoriana, corsets and all. Last year they raised over £2000,” he writes. “Then in the evening I'm DJing at a charity event with three live bands playing, to raise fund for The Sophie Lancaster Foundaton.”